It’s no secret that I have a healthy amount of respect for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in both its silver screen and small screen iterations and adaptations. The films do the things that they do right and the grittier, believable, down-to-earth television adaptations do what they do right. I’ve been a fan of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, Power Girl, and Luke Cage- but now the time comes for me to deliver my verdict on the last of New York City’s would-be ‘Defenders.’
Iron Fist is easily the weakest link in the otherwise spectacular story that has been Daredevil seasons one and two, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage thus far. Iron Fist is one of the stronger heroes ironically and yet the weakest of the stories. It is, at its base, a story of vengeance and betrayal as have been the others and yet it misses the most steps and is inevitably the dumbest of all five to this date in terms of the writing and human quality. Don’t get me wrong, Danny Rand’s story still features some excellent characters like the ever recurring Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), enigmatic and villainous Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), and newcomer Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick).
The pacing and story have been up and down in each of the MCU television shows so far, and yet for the most part I’ve found myself enjoying their stories and the massive amount of time, effort, and lore involved in each project. All of them are slowly meshing together in anticipation for The Defenders and I honestly cannot wait to see the might of four unlikely teammates pitted against the always dark and shady Hand. Both seasons of Daredevil were phenomenal and easily started the network show formula off in the strongest possible way, but as much as I loved Wilson Fisk I adored Jessica Jones’ David Tennant-played Kilgrave even more for his quirks and flaws. Luke Cage is an excellent study in lifestyle and the effects violence and education and other things can have upon people and their families, but it had a very typical Marvel problem in that it couldn’t firmly establish a “big bad” or make you extremely invested in most of the conflict.
Whereas each of the first three heroes’ stories are strong to me in their own unique ways, Iron Fist is the proverbial black sheep in that it largely falls flat where the others have held strong in every way before. Then again, even with the quality being the same or similar to the other projects, who could’ve thought that even Marvel would go five for five in such a short time span and churn out critical acclaim once more? Iron Fist is far from terrible, it just needs to gain its footing in the future and allow us a chance to better grow alongside and get to know the character. A lot of this first season is spent talking about things versus showing them, particularly where Danny Rand’s backstory comes into play. And with film or television this is all well and good but eventually people are going to want to see things play out rather than hear needless exposition dump after needless exposition dump.
In an extended and connected universe on the small screen alone where we’ve been blessed with the likes of Mahershala Ali and Rosario Dawson and Jon Bernthal who’ve been side characters with more story and connectivity than some series’ main character even have, it’s been a real letdown to only meet one or two new side story characters whose arcs are even of interest. Of course Madame Gao and her sect of The Hand has the continued interest that any previously unknown enigma offers, yet the only two memorable characters that were newly introduced in Iron Fist were Colleen Wing and Bakuto, perhaps even Ward Meachum as a distant third. The majority of the others fell flat including Danny Rand himself, and others that would’ve been even more interesting- such as Davos or Joy, found themselves sidelined too often to be of much interest.
All things said and done, I’ve tried to mostly avoid specific spoilers as best as I can here. It is my hope that whether or not you enjoy or even like superhero genre stories, you give Marvel’s network universe a chance. Unlike the CW’s DCU or even Marvel’s Agents of Shield or Agent Carter, these series are a lot more down to earth, believable, and quirky. Each hero has their flaws, each of them is after all only human. Each story isn’t about saving the world but rather the people that matter and the daily personal conflicts that everybody must go through. It’s not always fun to watch the characters struggle and go through hell but it sure is dark, vibrant, and violent and time and time again that’s been proven to be what show-watchers love.